Over 1,500 Shincheonji Church of Jesus members have started donating blood plasma for research purposes after recovering from Covid-19, as the organization bolsters its efforts to help contain the virus.
Donors from the church in South Korean city Daegu started undergoing the process on August 27 and will continue until September 4. This is the second round of donations by the church’s members and comes as South Korea faces a fresh spike in cases. US President Donald Trump said last week the Food and Drug Administration issued authorization for the emergency use of convalescent plasma for Covid-19 treatment.
In Korea, health authorities approached Shincheonji, which has over 300,000 members globally, asking for further plasma donations for the development of a vaccine and use in clinical trials. Roughly 4,000 of its members were infected earlier this year, with Daegu being the hardest hit. While most recovered from the virus, the congregation suffered 11 deaths.
The Korea Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (KCDC) and Shincheonji expect 1,700 members to have made donations by the end of this week. Research and development of the convalescent plasma treatment is underway by the country’s National Institute of Health under the Ministry of Health and Welfare. The government entities are also working with Green Cross Pharma, a biotechnology company near Seoul.
Deputy Director of the KCDC Kwon Jun-wook has thanked the church for its contribution. Among the challenges in researching the effectiveness of convalescent plasma treatment is the limited supply from donors, who must be fully recovered from the virus.
“We express our gratitude to the people who participated in donating plasma willingly to save other patients after recovery,” Kwon said.
Shincheonji Chairman Lee Man Hee encouraged the church’s members to do all they can to help the search for an effective treatment.
“Let us lead the effort in plasma donation so that the blood (plasma) of the congregation members can be used for overcoming Covid-19 for the citizens and the country,” he said in a letter to the members on August 25.